ALBANY, New York (WABC) -- The New York State legislature approved a package of bills Tuesday intended to increase limousine safety after several high-profile fatal crashes in recent years.
The legislation includes seatbelt requirements, immobilization of defective limousines, increases penalties for illegal U-turns and mandates driver drug and alcohol testing.
"These comprehensive reforms will give authorities much-needed new powers to get dangerous vehicles off the road, weed out bad actors and put into place common sense safety standards that will increase public safety in every corner of New York," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The legislation was prompted by two recent crashes including one in upstate Schoharie in 2018 which killed 20 people and a crash in 2015 on Long Island which killed four young women and severely injured several others.
The legislation was spearheaded by the family members of the victims who helped draft the legislation.
"It is our hope that the rest of the country will follow New York's state lead," said Mindy Grabina, whose daughter Amy Grabina was killed in the Cutchogue crash.
The legislation stipulates that all stretch limos, as of Jan. 1, 2023, must have seatbelts. Drivers of limos that make illegal U-turns could be subjected to fines and possible jail time - 15 days for a first offense and 45 days for a second offense.
Violations involving a stretch limousine making an illegal U-turn would be subjected up to a $1,000 fine and possible 180 days in jail.
For Nancy DiMonte, whose daughter Joelle survived the Cutchogue crash, one of the most important parts of the legislation is the requirement that individuals operating limos carrying nine or more passengers, including the driver, must have a commercial driver's license.
"So if I want to drive a limo, I have to go to school to be a CDL driver - that was not mandatory up until today," she said.
The legislation also requires that large for-hire vehicle drivers be subjected to pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing. It allows the Commissioner of Transportation to impound or immobilize stretch limos in certain situations, particularly ones that have failed inspection. Any release of a vehicle without approval by the Commissioner will be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.
The legislation also establishes a stretch limousine passenger safety task force which will study whether stretch limos should be more structurally sound and creates a telephone hotline operated and maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles for people to report safety issues with stretch limousines.
"I thank the brave and tireless advocacy of the families of the Cutchogue and Schoharie crashes for being the driving force behind today's bills and fighting for safety," said Senator James Gaughran (D-Syosset).
The governor is expected to sign the legislation.
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New York lawmakers, governor announce deal on limo safety regulations